Palliative and Long-term Care Leadership Leads to Prestigious National Award

Young caregiver in scrubs uniform showing medicine to Asian family

Jung Kwak, PhD, MSW, FGSA, associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, was awarded a Sojourns® Scholar Leadership Program award by the Cambia Health Foundation. She was one of ten emerging palliative care leaders selected from among a competitive pool of applicants. The two-year grant of $180,000 will allow Dr. Kwak to conduct an innovative research project in the field of palliative care.

Dr. Kwak’s program of research focuses on improving the quality of long-term and palliative care and patient access in a more inclusive and equitable way for older adults and their families living with dementia. As a part of her Sojourns project, she will conduct a prospective study of culturally diverse dementia family caregivers to examine the role that culture, faith, and cultural competency of health care teams plays in surrogate decision-making.

“The values associated with an individual’s culture and spiritual and or religious faith have a profound influence on how we cope with life-threatening illnesses, communicate our needs, and make decisions about care at the end of life,” Dr. Kwak said. “I hope this study will provide necessary knowledge for improving access to high-quality, culturally congruent, and person-centered palliative care and outcomes for persons with dementia and their family caregivers.”

“We are very proud of Jung Kwak’s leadership in the important field of long-term and palliative care and pleased that her work has been recognized by this prestigious foundation,” said Alexa Stuifbergen, dean of the UT Austin School of Nursing. “The UT Austin School of Nursing is committed to improving life for individuals across the lifespan through education, research and service, and Dr. Kwak’s work exemplifies her shared commitment to these efforts every day.”

The Sojourns® Scholar Leadership Program is designed to identify, cultivate and advance the next generation of palliative care leaders. These scholars represent the next generation of palliative care leaders and demonstrate the Foundation’s commitment to whole person care for people with serious illness.

Since the program’s inception in 2014, the Foundation’s purposeful investment in palliative care leadership has awarded more than $15 million to 84 scholars around the country. Scholars represent different areas of the palliative care team including physicians, nurses, chaplains, pharmacists, and social workers, but all are committed to improving the experience of people facing serious illness and their caregivers.